From the Back Cover
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to hum, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. At once powerful and tender, AMERICANAH is a remarkable novel of race, love, and identity by the award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
AMERICANAH has been on my to-read list for a while, and I finally read it last month for my world literature class. (Thank God for English classes with good syllabi!) So many wonderful things can be said about AMERICANAH, from its spare, sparkling prose to its treatment of the immigration experience. I was grateful for both after being assigned to finish all 500 or so pages of the novel in a week and compose a 1,200 word reflection on it!
“He was no longer sure, he had in fact never been sure, whether he liked his life because he really did or whether he liked it because he was supposed to.”
One thing I thought worked really well regarding AMERICANAH is the structure. The novel begins with a glimpse into present-day Ifemelu’s life in America, and then goes back in time to her childhood in Nigeria. Then, as Ifemelu and Obinze grow up, Adichie alternates back and forth between their lives in America and England, respectively, for several years until their Nigerian reunion. Sometimes, when writers choose to build their novels this way, it can make the plot unclear, but for AMERICANAH, it was an excellent way to gauge Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s thoughts and experiences. I found myself tearing through Ifemelu’s parts so I could reach Obinze’s, and vice-versa.
“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
Going into the novel, I was surprised by how much of it revolved around Ifemelu’s romantic relationships, especially that between her and Obinze. Though I wasn’t expecting AMERICANAH to be so heavily focused on romance, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is so much to be learned from Ifemelu’s immigration experience that can only be done by observing her various relationships, both romantic and platonic. Comparing her relationships in America with those in Nigeria, for example, was a wonderful way to gain a new perspective on her treatment as an “Americanah.” Overall, I am quite fond of Adichie’s novel, and I’m desperate to read more of her work.